I’ve known Dan Addelman and Byron Jacobs for well over half a decade now. The names might not ring a bell to casual poker fans, but I assure you that you’re familiar with their work. After all, this dynamic British duo are the driving forces behind D&B Poker, the world’s leading poker book publisher. Dozens upon dozens of the best-known titles in poker bear their logo, as D&B Poker has published everything from autobiographies to uber-popular poker strategy books, and more.
But what do we know about Dan and Byron themselves?
Anyone who has been to the World Series of Poker over the last few years has surely passed by the D&B Poker booth, where one or both of these fine gentlemen can usually be seen selling their seemingly endless supply of poker Manna and engaging with fans. Indeed, it was in those hallowed WSOP hallways where I finally got to meet Dan and Byron a couple years back after having maintained a solely digital relationship with them until then. Since that time, we’ve had dozens of enjoyable chats together where I’ve had the pleasure of really getting to know them better.
I’ve long wished to carry out an official interview with them, but the humble twosome have always demurred, preferring for the poker authors and D&B Poker’s publications to take the limelight. I’m grateful that after a good deal of coaxing, Dan and Byron have finally acquiesced. Their tale is a great one and I’m thrilled to bring it to you here, in a feature-length Cardplayer Lifestyle exclusive.
Dearest Dan and Byron, it’s time for you to get your richly deserved and long overdue recognition. Thank you so much for this opportunity to share your story.
Before we get into your business, let’s hear a little bit about you two. Dan, why don’t you go first? Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live, what you studied in university, that sort of thing.
Dan: Sure. So, originally I’m from Manchester, England. I spent three years living in San Francisco many years ago, and have spent the last 15 years or so living in rural France, not far from Cognac. I have a 16-year-old son. I fully intend to spend the rest of my life living in France, which I adore.
My background is in business, which I studied at university, and since my very first job I’ve been in publishing. I’ve worked for several large publishing companies as well as some smaller publishing companies, and eventually Byron and I started D&B Poker together.
Byron, how about you?
Byron: Yeah, I live on the south coast of England, about an hour down from London. I’ve been here for quite a long time now. Married, got two kids, 19 and 21. My background is in chess; when I was a kid I was a good chess player. I was one of the top juniors in the country for the under 14, under 16, under 18. I played internationally quite a lot, but I didn’t really play that much subsequent to going to university to study.
I stumbled into chess publishing when I was in my early 20s, when PCs became more powerful and you could do quite a lot more things with them. So I’ve never really had a proper job; I’ve always done various different things.
I’ve always been really interested in games. I had no clue how to play poker at all, so when poker came online in the early 2000s, I really got into it. With that, it seemed like a good opportunity to try and make something out of the fact that poker was taking off, to start a poker publishing business.
Launching a Poker-Oriented Business
When and how did the two of you first meet?
Dan: We’ve worked together now for over 20 years. I was brought in to manage a chess publishing company. Byron at the time was producing the books for the chess publishing company. And we met there, basically, back in 1998. Obviously we got on very well, and we thought, “Well, why don’t we give it a go, see if we can do something ourselves?” That was the catalyst for D&B.
Was D&B meant to exclusively publish poker books right from the get-go?
Byron: The original idea was to do games books, but not chess, because we had commitments to the chess publishers of the company. But we did bridge, backgammon, some puzzle books, Sudoku, and stuff like that. But then when the poker boom started, we thought, “right, this is where we have to be.” So we focused our efforts more on poker as we got to the mid-2000s.
Byron, you had mentioned that you began to get into poker a little bit as a player. Is that still true today? Do you still play and have you played all these years?
Byron: Yeah, I still play. I’m a decent player, but I play maybe four or five hours a week or something, I don’t play seriously, but I like to play as much as possible. I used to play a lot more, when it was profitable; there was this little kind of golden window in about 2006-2008, where anyone who was competent was making a lot of money at the game. I played a lot then because it was just very profitable. By about 2009, players had got much better.
I really enjoy playing and I love the game, and because I’m working on the books and everything, I like studying the game and I talk to a lot of our authors about poker. So I play for two reasons: One, because I really enjoy it. I win a little bit, but I don’t do it with the aim of making any sort of income. And two, it keeps me up to speed with what’s going on in the poker world, and it helps me when I work on the books and stuff like that.
I should say that I play almost exclusively online. I’ve played two tournaments live at the WSOP, but I don’t particularly enjoy live play.
Dan: I think Byron’s being quite modest, really, because he has written and published a couple of poker books. I think if you ask any of our authors, like Jonathan Little for example, he’s got a lot of respect for Byron’s level of poker. They’ll praise him as a very strong player, even if he doesn’t play that much, or as much as other people, but yeah, I think Byron’s being a bit modest there.
Byron: Oh, thank you, Dan, you’re very kind.
Well, Dan, how about you? Do you have a little-known HendonMob profile with millions in winnings that we’re not aware of?
Dan: No, I don’t play poker.
At all? You must know how to play.
Dan: Well, obviously, after working on publishing poker books for the last 15, 16 years, yes, I can talk a good story. But no, my background’s in publishing, I’ve always been in publishing, I’ve been involved in sales and marketing and distribution and printing and all those sides of things of publishing. So that’s really more my expertise. I will say to people that you don’t have to be a doctor to publish a book on medicine, just as you don’t need to be a poker player to publish a book on poker. So it’s systems, techniques, and skills involved in the publishing industry that I bring to D&B Poker.
Does the idea of wagering money scare you? Is that the issue? Or is it more that the game itself doesn’t appeal to you for whatever reason?
Dan: No, I wouldn’t say that at all. I know where my strengths lie, and becoming a poker player wouldn’t be the best use of my time. I also think if I was a poker player Byron and I would spend much more of our time discussing a book’s content. That obviously isn’t an issue for us.
Give or take, how many books have you guys published to date? How many do you aim to publish on a yearly basis?
Dan: We’ve published, since we started, about 75 books altogether. Of those, 50, I would say, are poker or gambling books. In terms of the number of books we publish a year, I would say three or four poker books a year, is our aim.
Byron: With poker books, what we try not to do is to publish the same book again and again and again. Because if you’ve got, like, no-limit hold’em tournament play or something, you could end up just doing the same book again. So we always try and take a different angle or get a different kind of author who’s got a different style or a different perspective on the game or something like that. Hopefully, there’s a broad enough range of approaches to the game so that anyone who’s interested in poker can find a poker book that appeals to them. Maybe, if some of the books are too technical, we’ve got more straightforward ones. If some of the books are too straightforward, we’ve got stuff that goes deeper into software and things like that. So we try to sort of cover all bases.
The Makings of Poker Books
How do you decide on titles? Do the two of you sit together and say “We want books on X, Y, and Z,” and then solicit for it, or is it more people sort of pitching you with their ideas?
Byron: I’d say it’s about 50-50. For example, we wanted to do a book on mixed games because there hadn’t been a good mixed games book for around 10 years. So, we went out to try and find someone who could do this for us. That eventually became Dylan Linde’s Mastering Mixed Games.
Other times people just approach us and say “look, I want to do this,” or “I’ve written this book,” or “I’ve got this idea,” and either we like it or we don’t; either we do it or we don’t.
Dan: We’re fortunate now that we’re in a position that we’re so well recognized in the poker world as being the leading poker book publisher that people come to us with ideas and manuscripts. As Byron says, sometimes we just do get sent unsolicited manuscripts, and we do know that if we have an idea, that we will probably be able to go out and find somebody to write a book based on the idea. I think that comes with being in the position that we are.
What criteria are you looking for, generally speaking, before you agree to become a book’s publisher? What is it that someone either needs to pitch you with, or have as a quality when you go and look for an author, beyond obviously expertise and success at the particular poker variant?
Byron: I can sum this up quite simply, actually. Sometimes we get sent a complete script, while other times somebody happens to have written a book (or the majority of it) and they’re looking for someone to publish it. So they’d just send us what they’ve done and we take a view on it. Now, if we get approached by an author who has an idea for a book but hasn’t actually written anything, there are various things I always want to see.
Maybe if there are people out there who read this interview and they’re thinking about pitching a book to us, I can save them some trouble because I can tell them exactly what makes it easy for us and what gives them the best chance to get their book considered and maybe published.
First of all, I obviously need to see some work that they’ve done that involves writing, so if they’ve written articles for magazines or something like that, or if they run a blog or whatever. I need to see how well people can write. Obviously we need to understand if they have expertise in the particular area that they’re writing about, so proof of results will tell us, generally speaking, that their skill level is sufficient. And then what I really like to see is a couple of things: I need them to write a couple of paragraphs explaining why this book is so brilliant and wonderful and why everyone will want to read it, and secondly, I like to see a contents list and an introduction.
When considering whether to go ahead with a pitch, I just like to get a real sense of why this book is going to be so amazing, why there aren’t books like that around at the moment, why people should buy the book, and what the author is actually going to put in the book in terms of content. So a little package like that makes it much easier to decide if it’s something we can do or not.
Dan: I’d also like to add that, it’s not essential that the potential author is well-known; they don’t necessarily have to be recognized in the poker world. If the topic is something that we really feel there’s a need for, then that can be just as important, or even more important, as them being a recognized name in the poker world. Obviously, you know, we’ve published books by Phil Hellmuth and Mike Sexton and Jonathan Little, Alex Fitzgerald, and many more amazing players, but being a recognized poker player is not the only criterion in deciding who we’re going to take on as a potential author.
Is there a massive difference in terms of how well a book sells based on whether it’s written by someone who we haven’t necessarily heard of before, versus someone who we have heard of before?
Byron: No, definitely not. Obviously, some of our books do better than others. Sometimes we’ve published books by very well-known people, or maybe not very well-known but very strong names, that have done OK but maybe not set the world on fire. Other times we’ve published books by complete unknowns that have really just gone and gone and gone and people have loved them.
So what you’re saying is that they’re really not to be judged by their covers…
Byron: Actually, you CAN judge our books by their covers if you like. The covers always look fantastic. 🙂
Well played, sir! OK, so in terms of how well books do or don’t do, live poker seems to be very much on the rise over the last few years. D&B Poker has of course been around for a while, well before Black Friday. Do you see some sort of a correlation between your company’s success and how well the poker industry as a whole seems to be doing on a year-on-year basis, or is it really unrelated; i.e., good poker books are always going to sell?
Dan: Fortunately, year on year, D&B Poker is growing, and we’ve been doing better and better as we’ve gone along. So I don’t see a direct correlation between the state of the poker industry and how well we’re doing, to be honest.
Byron: I think it’s more connected to the state of the publishing industry, actually, because obviously the publishing industry’s taken a bit of a hit in the last 10 years, and we’ve thankfully nonetheless done OK. In general, I think our fortunes ebb and flow along with how publishing in general does. Publishing was very, very strong in the mid-2000s, and it’s still OK, but certainly with all the different avenues online that people can get information, obviously, publishing in all sectors has taken something of a hit over the last 10-15 years.
Dan: I think the key is to always be innovating, and to always be thinking of what can you do next. I think you can’t rest on your laurels. You’ve always got to be thinking of, what else can we do? And we do, you know! Byron and I are always thinking of potential ways to improve our reputation and grow the company. If you just accept the status quo and decide, oh, that’s how it’s going to be, then you’re not going to grow.
You produce audiobooks as well. When did you begin doing that, and perhaps you could explain the process of audiobook production?
Dan: The first audiobook we published was just five years ago, and we’ve now just finished recording Greg Raymer’s book, Fossilman’s Winning Tournament Strategies. We now have 15 audiobooks.
Dan: Just this year alone we have Dylan Linde going into the studio recently to record his Mastering Mixed Games book, we had Martin Harris record Poker and Pop Culture, and we’ve had Dr. Patricia Cardner recording Purposeful Practice for Poker.
In an ideal world, we’d like to get the ebook, physical book, and audiobook available around the same time because different people like digesting their information in different formats. In reality, it doesn’t work out that way, and it depends on the availability of the author. That said, thus far we’ve always managed to get the authors themselves into a recording studio.
As far as the process, I contact various recording studios near where the author lives and discuss availability, pricing, and their ability to record audiobooks. Then, the author and I sit down and work out a schedule.
Audiobooks are a real growth industry in publishing. We’ve been surprised by how successful they’ve been, and we’ll continue to produce audiobooks.
Obviously, to produce an audiobook, authors are reading from a finished book. So let’s take a step back. Once you’ve got the final draft of a manuscript, approximately how long does it take until it’s available for purchase?
Byron: I’d say something like 4-6 months is probably about average. We’ve got to get the book properly edited, and there’s often quite a lot of graphic work. I do all the typesetting, and the text-based ones are usually straightforward, but books that are heavy on graphics are a lot more work. For example, Modern Poker Theory, which we published recently, has got about 700 graphics in it and about 400 equations. That just took forever; it was just a really huge job. Also printing and shipping usually takes a couple of months, plus there’s all the checking.
Is there ever any concern that an author’s strategy or story or whatever it may be might age a little bit between, during those 4-6 months?
Byron: I think six months is too short a period for something to really go out of fashion like that. If you look at some of the books that we’ve produced, certainly in the 2000s, and maybe even around 2011, 2012, the kind of strategies that are being espoused in those books are a little bit dated now, but that’s totally to be expected because of all the software that’s become available in the last six or seven years. Nowadays, people understand the mechanics of which hands can be played and how you play pre-flop and post-flop much better. Anyhow, I think that it would take approximately 2-3 years for some of the new strategy books to begin feeling a slight bit dated.
Dan: We usually sign a contract about a year before publication. There are huge lead times when you’re selling in books to the large retailers, whether it be Barnes & Noble, or wholesalers, or Amazon. For example, we have just finalized the titles that we’re going to be publishing in summer 2020.
Byron: We’re also pretty much sorted out for summer of 2021 as well.
Two years in advance?! Why not now? Why not next summer?
Dan: Well, there’s a limit to the amount of poker titles that we could publish per year because you have to bear in mind the size of the market. If we publish, say, 12 poker books in one calendar year, the market just wouldn’t be able to cope with it. We’d saturate it and it would obviously affect sales of titles. So that’s why we aim for between 3-5 titles per year.
Regarding the lengthy lead time, that reflects the amount of time that the retailers need to set their budgets. They usually need 9-12 months advance warning so they can build each title into their own plans and promotional schedules.
Byron: It is a little ironic, I suppose—you know, people run poker training sites, they publish videos, people access videos the next day, and they just shove stuff out. Social media happens instantly. Publishing, on the other hand, is hooked in to the old-fashioned thing where people go to shops and buy stuff there. Shops need to plan a long way in advance; maybe not Amazon so much. So to a degree we’re tied into that rhythm rather than being able to instantly bang things out.
Dan: Actually, I think the lead time works in our favor to a certain extent because it then gives us so much more time to promote the books prior to publication. It’s important to actually market the book in advance so people know what’s coming. Once we have a book’s cover, title, and basic information set, we will start to create a buzz, and I think that’s very beneficial.
Regarding promotion and marketing efforts of the book, many publishers don’t do that. They’ll say “my job is to get the book published, and then it’s sort of up to the author to promote it.” You guys certainly put forth a lot of effort in trying to get the word out; you even run a booth at the World Series of Poker. Is this a particular approach you decided to take that’s suited to poker, or is it just reflective of your personalities?
Dan: We’ve developed relationships with many members of the poker media corps, and it’s something that I’m very actively engaged in. Authors put so much time and effort into their books, and they then put their faith in us to promote and sell them.
Setting up Shop at the World Series of Poker
When did you guys start running a booth each summer at the World Series of Poker?
Byron: Because we had just published Jonathan Little’s book, Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em we wanted to make a bit of a fuss of it and promote it.
Dan: Yes, it was four years ago in 2015, and we shared a booth with somebody. We only went there for a week. Things went well, so the next year we shared with somebody else. The following year we felt we could expand and run a booth on our own. Now we’re in Las Vegas all summer long.
Byron: It’s just very good for promotion and the business as a whole, you know. Sales tend to spike online a lot while we’re at the WSOP. I think it just gets the brand name out there really effectively.
Dan: Of course it’s great to be able to sell the books, but I think the marketing side of things is equally as important. I think authors appreciate us being there, I think the public appreciates us being there, and I even think the WSOP appreciates us being there.
Byron: It’s funny, players who have just busted out of tournaments, they appreciate us being there, too. What happens is they come out of the Amazon Room or whatever, and they’re feeling like shit because they’ve just busted out of their $3k tournament, and they come over and tell us their bad beat stories. So they really like us being there because nobody else will listen to them! We can’t go anywhere; we’re stuck at the booth. So they come and tell us their bad beat stories…
Dan: And of course, because I don’t play poker, the amount of people that come up to me and speak for 10 minutes or so about their bad beat stories… I’ve learned to nod and grunt in the right places, and to add the odd intelligent comment here or there, but most of the intelligent comments I leave to Byron.
That’s hilarious. I imagine that maybe some of these players go ahead and pick up an extra book or two after having taken your time?
Dan: Well, that does definitely happen.
Byron: Actually, I would say people who tell bad beat stories don’t buy books, on the whole. I mean, obviously there are exceptions, but because they’re telling you a bad beat story, they obviously think the world owes them something; they think they’re a great player—they don’t need a book! I’m a decent poker player, and when they’re telling me these stories, I’m generally standing there thinking “God, you’re bad! You should buy all of our books!”
Six weeks away from your homes in England and France each summer is a long time. Do you enjoy it, beyond the business end of things?
Dan: I really do love it. I love talking to the public, and meeting and chatting with the authors. I’ll admit, by the end of the summer my sanity starts to slip, but it’s great and it’s great for D&B Poker. It feels wonderful when so many people come up to the booth and say “Oh, I’ve got this book, I’ve got that book, I love your books, thank you for doing such a great job.” That type of feedback makes it worthwhile.
Plus, during the year we don’t have many opportunities to meet with our authors. Virtually all of them are out there at the WSOP, and so it’s great to catch up. Of course, being in Vegas, eating great food is one of the pleasures, too. In fact, that is probably one of the things that keeps me sane. Las Vegas culinary experiences are definitely up there. Also, last year, I took a few days off and went hiking out in Red Rock Canyon.
Byron: I do like being at the WSOP because, as I regularly work from home, I don’t tend to interact with people much at all beyond Skype and other virtual means. So having a little period of time in the summer, when I can actually talk to other human beings face-to-face, even if they are pouring out their bad beat stories on me, is nice.
That’s six weeks out of the year, but what’s your guys’ average day like when it’s not World Series of Poker time?
Byron: Well, D&B’s not the only thing that both of us do. Personally, I do a lot of chess publishing as well, and I also do a lot of chess journalism, so I’m quite busy. I work from home and it’s the typical self-employment grind, sitting in front of the PC, doing admin work or preparing books or writing stuff. I enjoy working from home, not having to deal with office politics or a commute.
Dan: It’s the same for me, really. I’d like to add though that I think that’s one of the downsides of working by yourself from home, is that you’re always on. It’s very hard to switch work off, but because it’s something that Byron and I both love doing, we don’t mind working long or strange hours, or weekends, due to time zone differences with our authors. So it’s pretty full on, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Obviously we want to be successful and to make money from our business, but it’s like having this little baby that you’re trying to grow, and I really like that. Every time your books do well or you get good reviews, or people like your stuff, or they come up to you and say “We’ve got all of your books, they’re great!” that’s really a nice feeling, that you’re building something up. I think poker players can probably relate to that quite well.
Beyond the WSOP in the summer, do the two of you get any face-to-face time during the year?
Dan: We Skype all the time; every day as a matter of fact, but we don’t meet that often during the year.
Byron: It’s maybe a couple of times a year outside of the World Series of Poker.
The Next Chapter
Just before we finish off, it’s time to plug some of your upcoming titles. What poker books have you got in the pipeline that you’d like to get our audience excited about?
Dan: We’ve got two titles coming out later this year. One’s called A Girl’s Guide to Poker, by Amanda Botfeld. Byron’s currently working on editing the typesetting of that, and that’ll be coming out before the end of the year. We’ve also got a book by Ashley Adams called Winning Poker in Thirty Minutes a Day.
Byron: Both these books would be ideal for a poker player who has a friend who wants to take up the game, or knows a little bit and wants to learn a little more about it. These aren’t beginners’ books, but they’re somewhat basic. So they wouldn’t be necessarily of interest to someone who’s played at the WSOP year in and year out, but perhaps those players have partners or friends… These books would be ideal as a Christmas gift!
Alright, I’ve saved my most challenging question for last. A lot of poker study that people do these days, say from a poker training course, involves a video component. What would you say to those who might argue that “the age of the poker book” is in its twilight phase?
Byron: In my opinion there is absolutely nothing wrong with studying poker using video material. As a matter of fact, some people don’t realize that we also produce videos ourselves to accompany our books. With that said, and I’m aware that I’m likely a bit biased as I have been producing books all my life, I firmly believe that the absolute best way to study a subject is by using books.
I think that the beauty of a book is that it absolutely forces the reader to engage with the material. I feel this is an aspect of “media consumption” that is perhaps underrated in the digital age. It’s quite easy to zone out when watching a video… you ‘ll be five minutes into it and enjoying it, but then your mind wanders a bit and suddenly the 40-minute video is over. What happened in that video? Can you write down what you learned? Maybe, but maybe not.
With a book it’s different. If you are on page 25 and you zone out then you will still be on page 25 when you zone back in. It is almost impossible to read a book without really engaging with the material. If you watch a video and don’t understand a point, it isn’t very likely you’ll stop, rewind, and watch again – you will probably just plod on. This is far less likely to happen with a book. If a sentence or paragraph isn’t clear and you don’t fully understand its point, you’ll probably re-read it. And it’s lesson will stick because you’ll have made the effort to understand it.
Lastly, there is simply just a ton of material in books. For example, I co-wrote Moorman’s Book of Poker (with Chris Moorman), which is almost entirely made up of hand analysis. At 380 pages, it’s a fairly standard size for one of our books. I also made a video version using a hand replayer. The total video pack came out at over eight hours long.
So – everyone – buy books! They’re brilliant!